Binge Theory: 101 Atypical, Freakish & Stranger Things 2

Your Roundup On Halloween…

The past couple of years has been as if you’ve been unable to bypass anyone who hasn’t been home on a weekend that’s watched an entire series released on television, although, “television” has probably surpassed everyone’s expectations of what it should be. For the most part, gone are the day one would wait in anticipation for a week to slink by in order to catch a glimpse, an hour, of your favorite show. Of course, networks are still able to captivate audiences and fans with their weekly series. AMC has a firm hold of zombie fanatics with The Walking Dead and the spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead, while NBC is still able to grab hold of the demographic for audiences who enjoy Chicago Fire, PD and MED. But online streaming services are able to pull people away from standard television services and it may mean online television services like DirecTV, Cablevision, Cox and the like may need to make pricing adjustments in order to compete on the new playing field.
Earlier this year PC Magazine listed their best video streaming services of 2017. Since their partnership with AT&T, the aforementioned DirecTV now offers online streaming starting at $35 monthly, but its pricing is still over 400% more than companies like Netflix, HULU and Amazon. While DirecTV offers slightly more variety with news and sports, the average person is no longer glued to their televisions, opting to watch shows one right after the other and receive news through apps and alerts. I subscribe to those same ideals which include scrolling through social media for those new items as well. So for the past few months I’ve drowned out the commercialization noise of network television, falling off the satellite television grid, releasing the contractual grip hold it had on me. HULU and Netflix have become predominantly used in my home and I’ve become familiar with the Binge Theory. It wasn’t my intention to allow a show or series to completely envelop me with their melodramatic scripts surrounding certain shows, it just simply happened.
As a kid growing up I would watch movies that were far beyond my years, films someone my age shouldn’t have been watching until I matured. Properly. While some may still question my own maturity, I found myself wide-eyed watching Fast Times At Ridgemont High watching Jennifer Jason Leigh topless and I was, um, hooked. She continued with roles throughout the years, performing in Single White Female, Last Exit To Brooklyn, Georgia, Short Cuts, and Road To Perdition. All of these movies, I’ve seen. Now while there’s no similarity or connection to her, I’ve followed the career of one Michael Rapaport, aka The Gringo Mandingo aka The Back Door Man (no Bruno.) He’s appeared in a number of television shows throughout the years as well as the films, True Romance, Higher Learning, Cop Land and Deep Blue Sea. Rapaport also directed the award-winning documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. Now as it sometimes happens, the careers of these two actors have collided in a new show this year called Atypical (Netflix), a modern-day coming of age television series.  Both Leigh and Rapaport are cast as Doug and Elsa Gardner, the paramedic and hairdresser parents, respectively, to their 18-year-old son Sam Garner, played by Keir Gilchrist, who is on the autism spectrum. The show also stars Bridgette Lundy-Paine who plays Casey, Sam’s younger sister. While the show focuses around Sam and his autism, it also gives great insight on how a family deals with it in their own right. The show is comedic, with loads of drama, and lots of self-discovery. While some may argue the show doesn’t properly portray someone with these disabilities in an accurate fashion, the truth is, the autism spectrum is pretty broad. Atypical does, in fact, give you an idea of what not to expect from someone who is autistic, and that’s usually the unexpected.

Sometimes a strange image just grabs your attention, and that’s what happened when, in passing, I caught glimpse of a promotional photo for Freakish (HULU). This one runs the gamut of including zombies throughout it but this one is different from what we normally see happening in other shows. The premise? A number of high school kids are in school on a Saturday, some ala Breakfast Club in detention and others decorating for a school event. Lucky for them they’re all a good distance away from the chemical plant that explodes in a blaze of glory, releasing toxins throughout the town, that either kills its victims or turns them into raving, maniacal flesh eaters. The group of surviving students are hold-up tightly in a section of the school as they wait out hope for rescue. Will that help ever arrive? After two seasons, the dwindling number of survivors seem to get better at…surviving. Will things change for the better? Who the hell knows! The revolving cast of characters seems too numerous to mention but that doesn’t mean their roles aren’t important. One thing I do know is I’m always kept on edge here. 2018 can’t come soon enough.

Now I may have jumped on the bandwagon a year later because I wasn’t sure about Atlanta (FX) and while everyone gushes about this urban series, I’m on the fence about it. Actually, I’m not on the fence about it, and I hate that I have to disagree with the majority of my friends but the show appeals to the base premise that circles around creator Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) who plays the character Earn. He’s a young urban millennial that attempts to navigate through the Atlanta rap scene, promoting the career of his cousin Alfred “Paper Boi,” Miles, played by Brian Tyree Henry. Always by Paper Boi’s side is Darius, his right-hand man played by Keith Stanfield (Straight Outta Compton.) Now while the show has some moments of hilarity, there are times Glover’s monotone delivery sometimes distracts from the rest of the show. Sure, the show’s gritty ambiance is what’s attracting a number of viewers into this urban comedy, and Glover’s resumé hasn’t allowed us to see much of his range. I’m not particularly looking forward to seeing him cast as a young Lando Calrissian, the role popularized by Colt 45 malt liquor spokesman, Billy Dee Williams. Stanfield however, he’s the actor to watch. Playing a young Snoop Dogg in Compton, he was believable. If you caught him on the Netflix movie Death Note, you’ll see he can play much more than just a thuggish city kid. His small role in Get Out was pretty engaging as well and shows his own range. Eh, this Atlanta show is what it is and I’m sure the crowd will be begging for more.

This past weekend we all witnessed the release of the new Stranger Things 2 (Netflix)! Many people had plans to remain indoors in order to receive the full effect of watching a number of episodes, to be able to discuss the series on Monday at work with coworkers. Many folks that I’ve encountered have failed in that task, and I’ve had to keep my thoughts to myself and my mouth shut about Season 2. If you haven’t watched or don’t want any spoilers: stop reading…here. Moving on, the timing for the new season of Stranger Things couldn’t have been suited more perfectly so close to Halloween, where the cast of Eleven/Jane (Millie Bobby Brown), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Joyce (Winona Ryder), Will (Noah Schnapp), Chief Hopper (David Harbour), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), and Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) all return for this season, basically picking up right where they left off a year later. This season welcomes two new characters played by Dacre Montomery and Sadie Sink, who play Billy and Max respectively. There have been some growing pains, and Mike still pines for Eleven, who we find didn’t die when she was sucked into the Upside Down world. She made her way back to reality and goes on a separate adventure of her own as her old friends try to deal with the return of the demons from the misshapen reality attempting to increase the size of the breach Eleven had unwittingly opened in the first season. Without giving up much, just know that some relationships are made stronger while others are broken. If you felt strongly invested in the first season, Stranger Things 2 will pull on your heart strings at moments while keeping you on edge to see what lurks in the darkness of the Upside Down.